Whether you love a character or just love to hate them, everyone in a movie deserves a death that means something. But it doesn’t always work out that way, and instead we wind up with some antagonists we wanted to see suffer get taken down with ease, or heroes who are brushed aside rather than getting a brave sacrifice.
Some filmmakers know how to use an anticlimax to positive effect, and a few instances of that will get special mention in this list. But for the most part these are the characters whose deaths left us shocked, and not in a good way.
It doesn’t ruin how good a lot of these movies are, but we could’ve been left more satisfied after these 11 Most Anticlimactic Movie Deaths.
And, seeing as we’re talking about deaths here, it’s fair to say there’ll be a few SPOILERS about the movies mentioned here.
11. BILL IN KILL BILL
Quentin Tarantino’s penchant for revenge movies reached a new height with his two part story told across the Kill Bill films. But for a movie named after him, you would think the death of the titular Bill would be something a lot more spectacular than what it was. Dying to the ridiculous “five point palm exploding heart technique” was a suitably over-the-top demise in keeping with the rest of the movie, but the final blow is landed less than thirty seconds after the fight even begins.
It’s not that the conversation between Beatrix and Bill leading up to their fight isn’t interesting, but with every other confrontation in the movie we see Beatrix actually struggle to defeat her opponent and have to find some clever way to take them down. Her fight with Bill practically looks easy, and kind of makes you wonder why she didn’t just go after him first, since he was the one she had the main issue with. There’s still plenty of fun to be found in the movies for Kill Bill fans, but with the “unfinished business” that was built up so much in the trailers, we would’ve liked to have seen a bit more time given to this fight.
10. THE SWORDSMAN IN INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
If there’s anything Indiana Jones taught us, it’s that an anticlimactic death doesn’t have to leave viewers feeling disappointed, and can be done well if intentional. Fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark all remember when Indy is confronted by a swordsman in the middle of a street, and the assailant proceeds to showcase his fancy sword work before brandishing the weapon at Jones. Indy gives the man an exasperated look, plucks his gun from his holster, and shows exactly why you don’t bring a knife (or a sword) to a gunfight.
Rumor has it that the original plans for the swordsman actually were to give him a legitimate fight against Indy. Word is Indy was meant to disarm and defeat his opponent using his whip, but that Harrison Ford and other members of the crew were sick with dysentery. Ford supposedly was in so much discomfort that he wanted to get the scene done with as soon as possible, and asked if he could just shoot the swordsman instead. Evidently everyone agreed that was a pretty logical alternative, and we wound up getting one of the most iconic moments of the franchise as a result.
9. JAZZ IN TRANSFORMERS
There’s plenty to criticize in the Transformers film franchise, from the casting choices, to the length of the movies, to the sense of humor. But they obviously make money, and people keep going to them to see giant robots throw each other around, and catch a glimpse of some of their favorite Autobots and Decepticons. When the biggest thing fans want from the films are some cool action scenes, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to do well, but Michael Bay finds a way to trip over that low bar.
Popular Autobot Jazz features in the first film in the franchise, but doesn’t manage to survive long enough to stick around for the sequels. He makes it to the third act of the film for the big showdown with the Decepticons, but doesn’t prove much use. He bravely stands his ground against them, and even goes up against Megatron, shouting “You want a piece of me?” This only sets up for his punchline of a death, however, where Megatron snatches him up, rips him in half, and growls, “No, I want two.” Jazz dies without even getting a memorable fight to his name, and is dismissed with a one-liner, which, as we’ll see more of later, is one of the lowest ways to go out.
8. COLIN SULLIVAN IN THE DEPARTED
The Departed was all about double crossing and people not being what they seemed, so it’s not that Matt Damon’s Colin Sullivan dying at the end was out of character for the film. There was just no build up to the death of the last major character in the film, and it took some time to process the logic of Mark Wahlberg’s character’s actions. Fortunately, in case the obvious theme behind the sudden murder was too subtle for you, the closing shot of the film includes a rat scurrying by to remind us that none of the characters were what they appeared.
Apparently the twist of Sullivan dying was something added for American audiences, and was a diversion from The Departed’s original Chinese adaption Internal Affairs. In the Chinese original, Sullivan’s equivalent character gets away with his deception. This was changed for the American remake after it was evidently thought viewers here wouldn’t respond well to moral corruption going unpunished. The film won best picture, so there’s probably little disputing the results, but it still felt like DiCaprio’s Bill Costigan should have been the one pulling the trigger on Sullivan.
7. OBI-WAN KENOBI IN STAR WARS: EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE
We all know the Star Wars prequels aren’t the greatest, but one okay thing they did accomplish was show us why Obi-Wan Kenobi is considered to be so revered in the original trilogy. Let’s face it, his big fight with Darth Vader was probably one of the worst fights in the entire franchise. Admittedly, the actors were limited by their age and the maneuverability of their costumes, but on rewatches the scene looks rather silly. And honestly, the way it concludes can be kind of confusing for young viewers.
Obi-Wan warns Vader that cutting him down will only make him stronger, and he leaves himself open to Vader’s next blow. Despite Luke’s anguished scream as an onlooker, all we see is Obi-Wan’s cloak fall to the floor as he’s struck, and his body disappears. None of the other characters die this way, so to a first time viewer it might understandably look like Obi-Wan just teleported away. With no blood and no body, we just have to take everyone’s word for it that Obi-Wan actually died. The scene might contain one of the most quoted lines in the franchise, but the Obi-Wan of the prequels is shown as more of a badass than what we see of his big fight in A New Hope.
6. RONAN IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
When Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters, it’s light-hearted tone and wise-cracking characters were a breath of fresh air. While Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was unique at the time with their darker approach to a superhero, the style quickly became commonplace and predictable. Audiences were left asking what happened to comic book movies that were fun. And then along came a sarcastic raccoon and his talking tree friend.
Sometimes it’s fun to see the hero and the villain smash each other through buildings, but the whole destroy the world thing has gotten old. So at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, when the antagonist Ronan was doing the typical villain monologue about how fearsome and powerful he is, audiences were as surprised as Star-Lord’s companions when he began to sing and dance in the face of danger. Seeing Ronan’s shock that the heroes weren’t cowering or preparing for a fight was funny enough, but the end result of Ronan being taken out immediately was a hilarious surprise. This well-timed anti-climax made for a funnier and more memorable encounter than if there actually had been a big fight to save the world.
5. PRESIDENT SNOW IN THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2
It took four years and as many films, but Katniss Everdeen finally got to have her confrontation with the one who organized the hunger games contest—President Snow. She walks up to him with a crowd at her back, and being openly invited to take the revenge that’s been in her heart for so long. She draws her bow on him as he stands there helplessly, takes sight on him with an arrow, and at the last second redirects her shot to kill the equally evil President Coin.
While the point Katniss was making was understandable, it still left President Snow alive and the audience wondering what would happen to him. And by the end of the film we’re still wondering. We know that President Snow does die, but the circumstances of how are left a mystery. It could be that he was going to die even without any intervention, or that he was killed in the riot that ensued after the death of President Coin. Regardless, it’s a letdown for what we took as the main antagonist of the series for years to die in such an ambiguous way.
4. BANE IN BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
While people were disappointed that The Joker would without a doubt not be returning from The Dark Knight due to Heath Ledger’s death, Bane was an intriguing follow up villain. Fans of the Batman comics knew how intelligent Bane was, and how he was such a powerful adversary that he nearly permanently retired Bruce Wayne from the Batman role by breaking his back. We had seen villains in the previous two movies try to overcome Bruce by attacking him psychologically, so giving the Dark Knight his first taste of an adversary who hugely overpowered him looked like a great decision.
Then Bane slowly became a less interesting villain as we learned he was lying about wanting to give Gotham back to the people, and merely wanted to destroy it like every other villain. And he demonstrated extreme stupidity by leaving Bruce Wayne alive for months when he easily could have killed him, but opted to go the cliché villain route of sparing his foe to make him suffer. The final nail in the coffin for Bane was the reveal that he wasn’t the mastermind of the schemes at all, and that he was just a lackey for Talia al Ghul. With his importance to the plot suddenly gone, he was immediately killed off by Catwoman for a one-liner. At least it’s better than how he was treated in Batman and Robin, right?
3. THE KRAKEN IN PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
While the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise arguably went downhill after Curse of the Black Pearl, the sequels still had some good fun to offer for fans of pirate adventures. Undoubtedly the most memorable aspect of the second film, Dead Man’s Chest, was the weapon that Captain Davey Jones used to control the sea: his Kraken. It’s introduced in the film as it destroys a boat in mere seconds, demonstrating what a powerful obstacle it’ll be for Jack Sparrow and his companions to overcome. And ultimately it’s one they couldn’t overcome, with the Kraken surviving an onslaught from guns, swords, and even an explosion to rise up once more and devour Jack whole.
With At World’s End continuing the story of its predecessor, it looked like the Kraken would continue to be one of the most formidable forces in the movie. People surely expected it to be killed at some point, but few probably predicted its death to play out like it did. The blue-blooded Cutler Beckett reminds Davey Jones of his position of power by mentioning how he forced Jones to kill the Kraken, and that’s all we hear of its fate. Its carcass is later come across washed up on a beach, but it died off screen without even an explanation of what Jones did to kill it! A fight to the death with the Kraken would certainly have made for a great action scene, but instead it became a big indicator of the letdown the third movie would be remembered as. Thanks to Cutler Beckett, Davey Jones would never again “release the Kraken.”
2. LLEWELYN MOSS IN NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
The worst kind of anticlimactic deaths are definitely the ones that occur in what are otherwise excellent movies. No Country for Old Men won best picture, best director, best supporting actor, and best adapted screenplay at the Academy Awards, so there’s no doubt that it has left a strong impression. It’s full of strong performances, and acting that relies on visual cues over exposition. Though maybe a bit too much was left unsaid when we suddenly see that Llewelyn Moss has been killed in the middle of the third act.
Like the earlier mentioned Kraken in Dead Man’s Chest, this death is anticlimactic partially because it happens off screen, and seeing something happen is always more captivating than hearing about it. But what makes this death worse is that Llewelyn Moss was the closest thing we had to a protagonist in No Country for Old Men, so his sudden death really takes the wind out of the movie’s sails. It’s still a great film, and the Cohen brothers were only faithfully adapting Moss’ end from the novel, but it definitely leaves the audience with a feeling of “is that it?” At least that feeling prepares you for the ending of the movie, though.
1. BOBA FETT IN STAR WARS: EPISODE VI RETURN OF THE JEDI
Boba Fett has become the poster boy for this topic. His role in the Star Wars universe as this bounty hunter whose allegiance was to the highest bidder gave him this cool aura as a wildcard in the story. And everyone loves the mystique of a person in a mask. Boba honestly didn’t even feature that much in the original Star Wars trilogy, but his look and his job piqued a lot of people’s interest, and has made him one of the most popular characters in the franchise.
Yet the reason we don’t know much about Boba Fett is because of what might just be the most premature death in the entire series. We finally get to see Boba in combat action trying to recapture Han Solo, and it seems like we’re about to get the epic showdown between these two antiheroes we’ve been waiting for. Sadly, Chewbacca spoils it and tips his buddy off, leading to the still blinded Han Solo flailing about and accidently initiating Boba Fett’s jetpack. Boba goes flying off into the distance, and falls into the most obvious set piece death trap imaginable (and one of the least cool).
Boba’s fate ends with him being eaten by a giant clam with tentacles, and he’s never seen again. Sorry extended universe fans, but when Disney bought the rights to the franchise, they also dubbed the Star Wars novels predating the acquisition as non-canon. Meaning Boba Fett never escapes the Sarlacc Pit, and in the remastered editions, the Sarlacc even finishes its armored meal with a belch. But who knows, maybe we’ll see him again in the upcoming prequel Rogue One.
What other movie characters do you feel deserved a better death than what they got? Tell us all about the heroes and villains whose demises left you feeling “meh” in the comments section!
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